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Morocco Week in Review 
April 15 2017

American Band “The Exchange” to Perform in Morocco on April 25-29

By Morocco World News -  April 10, 2017 By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

American Capella group, The Exchange, is set to headline four live concerts in Moroccan cities namely Oujda, Meknes, Casablanca and Rabat during their five-day tour through Morocco scheduled from April 25-29.  The band’s tour is part of a program inaugurated by the US State Department and the American Music Abroad (AMA) Association. This partnership is committed to arranging a set of cultural activities including multi-cultural exchange programs, concerts and interactive performances with traditional local musicians. AMA bands and groups, including The Exchange, have visited more than 100 countries around the world. The association’s activities are devoted to young audiences, allowing them to meet American artists of all sorts and to experience their music live.

The event will be organized by the US embassy in coordination with the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center, the Hiba Foundation, the Oujda Arts Association and Hit Radio.
This tour is part of a wider tour throughout African and Middle Eastern countries. The Exchange will provide their fans with interactive performances with local musicians, workshops and jam sessions.
The group consists of five American  Capella artists. It was first formed by Christopher Diaz and Aaron Sperber, who were soon joined by Jamal Moore, Richard Steinghner and Alfredo Austin. Each of the five vocalists enjoys other interests outside of singing and beatbox. They are also cultural ambassadors for the State Department in the Middle East and Central Asia. “We are pleased to welcome the American  Capella quintet, The Exchange,” declared The Embassy of the United States in Morocco in a press release. The Exchange will perform in Casablanca on April 25, then in Oujda on April 27, in Meknes on April 28, finally in Rabat on April 29. All live concerts of The Exchange will be free.

King Mohammed VI to Meet Donald Trump on Sunday

By Youssef Igrouane - April 14, 2017 , Rabat

Will King Mohammed VI will meet with the American President during his private visit to the United States? This is the question that millions of Moroccans are asking.  According to French magazine, Jeune Afrique, American President Donald Trump will chair a luncheon in honor of King Mohammed VI in Florida on Sunday. No communique has been issued by either the Moroccan Ministry of foreign affairs or the State Department to confirm the information reported by Jeune Afrique.

After having a six-day holiday in Cuba, King Mohammed VI left for America aboard an airplane belonging to King Salman of Saudi Arabia. He arrived in Miami, Florida on Thursday, accompanied by Princess Lalla Salma, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan and Princess Lalla Khadija. Jeune Afrique reported that the King capitalized on his stay in Havana to meet with Cuban officials. The contact could lead to the normalization of relations between the two countries, after a 37-year freeze due to Cuba’s support for the Polisario.

This will be King Mohammed VI’s first trip to the United States after Donald Trump was elected President. The Moroccan king was among the first heads of state to congratulate Trump following his victory in the election last November. If this meeting is confirmed, the King will be the second African head of state to meet Trump after Egyptian President Abdefettah Al-Sissi, who was received at the White House on Monday, March 27. The King’s visit to the United States comes a couple of weeks before the Security Council is scheduled to vote on a new resolution to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission in the Western Sahara, known as MINURSO.

Since he was sworn in as President of the United States, Trump has spent six weekends on his private estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. The United States is the pen holder of the Security Council resolutions on the Western Sahara. Every year, it drafts the resolution in coordination with the other members of the Group of Friends of the Western Sahara, which include France, the United Kingdom, Russia and Spain.

Morocco needs the support of the United States at the Security Council for the adoption of a resolution that will create a new dynamic in the UN-led political process and bring the conflict to an end through a mutually acceptable solution, in line with UN Security Council 1754 (2007). In addition to the question of the Western Sahara, fighting terrorism could be be one of the subjects to be addressed in the event the meeting takes place.

Morocco has played a key role in fighting ISIS both at the national and international level. His intelligence services have been instrumental in helping European countries, such as France, Belgium and Spain, abort many terrorist plots. Since Trump has made fighting ISIS his top priority, Morocco may prove to be a key player in the US strategy to fight terrorism.

100 Babies Born Daily in Morocco to Unknown Fathers

By Morocco World News -April 13, 2017 Rabat

It is surely a shocking figure. 100 babies are born daily in Morocco whom their fathers are not known. The number was reported by the Moroccan Centre for Human rights (CMDH) in a statement on Wednesday. Other distressing numbers were revealed. These figures came as Morocco celebrated yesterday the International Day for Street Children. According to the same centre, the huge number of children born to unknown fathers means half of them might end up in the street. The centre’ statement added that 3 children out of 10 end up in the street, taking all sorts of drugs. The statement pointed out that different factors are contributing in increasing the number of street children such poverty and the failure of education system. “Street children are the main source for the rise of criminality in our country,” warned the statement, adding that these children are prone to being recruited by terrorist groups. A call for the government to come in aid of families in need was issued by the Moroccan Centre for Human Rights. A similar call to NGO’s was made. “Civil society must double efforts to come up with projects and practical initiatives to save street children,” says CMDH.

Assid: “Arabic and Islamic Identity Was Imposed On Morocco”

By Saad Eddine Lamzouwaq - April 11, 2017 , Rabat

Ahmed Assid is one of Morocco’s intellectuals who have regularly voiced their criticism of religious institutions. On several occasions, the Amazigh activist and author of several books on Aamzigh question made the headlines because of some controversial statements about Islam or the Prophet Muhammad. His most recent interview with the Arabic service of the French news TV channel, “France 24”, might be the subject of controversy as well. Assid said that Morocco failed to well manage the post-colonial legacy in terms of equality between Moroccan citizens, regardless of their faith or language or skin color, and imposing one single identity on a country that has been known for its long-time diversity.

The Moroccan state, according to Assid, sought to impose “uniformity” on Moroccans by excluding other aspects of their identity, and enforcing only the Arabic and Islamic part of it.  Despite the recognition of other components of Moroccan identity in the constitution of 2011, Assid believes this recognition is missing in education programs and public institutions and media.
“The Moroccan state declared conciliation with other components of national identity and culture. But in reality, it is still adopting past practices”, said Ahmed Assid.
In addition to criticizing public authorities, Islamic thought was censured by the Moroccan author. “Religion is used whenever there is a case of injustice”, said Assid, adding that, “Moroccans, just like the rest of Muslims, have an inflated religious thinking which still clings to the past”. Assid criticized Muslims for believing they could fix today’s problems by borrowing past religious ideas.

World’s Oldest Library in Morocco to Regain Lost Glory.

by Fredrick Ngugi, , April 11, 2017,

The world’s oldest library al-Qarawiyyin, according to UNESCO and the Guinness World Records, has regained its lost glory thanks to a major renovation being carried out by a team of Moroccan engineers. The project, which has been commissioned by the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, involves top local architects, including Aziza Chaouni who is the head of the project, and is expected to give the ancient structure a bespoke facelift in line with the 21st century architectural standards, reports CNN.

The renovation involves a reconstruction of the foundations, installation of a new sewage line, and the restoration of the building’s iconic green roof.
“The sooner we can open the library, the better as every day there are researchers who find out that the library is still closed. The quicker we can finish it, the happier it will make us,” Abdelfattah Bougcouf, a curator at the al-Qarawiyyin library, says.

World’s Oldest Library
Huddled within the busy city of Fez, in northeastern Morocco, the al-Qarawiyyin library is the property of the University of al-Qarawiyyin, which is the world’s oldest university.
The library was built in 1359 AD and houses some of the country’s precious artifacts, including important manuscripts considered to be among the earliest copies to be produced in Islamic history. A curator inspects one of the oldest manuscripts found in al-Qarawiyyin Library. Some of the oldest manuscripts found here include a 9th century Quran, a 10th century account of Prophet Muhammad’s life, and influential scientific and medical textbooks. “We were always discovering things as we were ripping out walls” Chauni says.

The university was founded in 859 AD as a mosque by Fatima Al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Arab merchant from Tunisia. In the available records, Al-Fihri is described as a young woman fascinated by knowledge and curious about the world. She supervised the construction of the mosque (now al-Qarawiyyin University) from start to finish and continued to attend lectures by prominent scholars who taught at the mosque until her final days. Although the university has since been moved to another location within Fez, the mosque and the library still remain at the old establishment, attracting thousands of local and foreign tourists every year.

Students and researchers from far and wide have drawn from the library’s carefully curated manuscripts and other important records for years, giving both old and young generations a rare window in to Morocco’s past as the pioneer of Islamic art and science.

From Heavenly Hammams to Chic Pajamas, Plum Sykes’s Insider Guide to Marrakech

April 12, 2017 4:00 PM by Emma Elwick-Bates

Lounging beneath a canopy of fragrant bougainvillea, sipping mint tea from an elegant little glass etched with gold leaf—the enduring magic of Marrakech continues to captivate. Taking a well-deserved break after completing her latest novel Party Girls Die in Pearls, author and Vogue contributor Plum Sykes shares her chic (and tagine-hot) tips to this fabled, fortified city. “I love the city so much that this is my fourth visit in two years—there is such a lot to do in Marrakech that I honestly feel one might never cover everything, so I keep going back,” says Sykes, who has just spent a week staying at artist India Jane Birley’s exquisite, sun-drenched riad. “After a delicious breakfast of crepes Moroccan, honey, and goat’s curd, we either flopped by the heavenly pool or pottered off on a trip into town.”

Her next trip is already in the pipeline: “There is always somewhere on my list that I don’t quite have time to get to on each trip. This time, I desperately wanted to visit Jasper Conran’s new L’Hotel in the medina, having heard from friends that it’s wonderful. On the bright side, that gives me another excuse to go back as soon as possible.”

Chic in the Souks
“The man with the key to the city (in my humble opinion) is Ouizid Mustapha, an expert in Marrakech shopping. He helps India Jane source everything from Berber rugs to that fresh goat’s curd we had for breakfast, and is brilliant at finding wonderful shops within the souk. Never try to visit more than one or two specific shops there in one day—otherwise it can feel overwhelming.”

The Pajama Shop
“Ignore the slightly brighter-colored, commercial pieces at the front of the store and ask owner Sirari Mustapha to show you the ‘plus simple’ children’s and adult’s pajamas in ultra-fine white, gray, or cream cotton. They are just as fabulous for wafting around the pool as for sleeping in. At around $20 per pair, I always bulk buy.”
Souk Semmarine Rbaiya No. 18

Magasin Berber
“Ouizid Mustapha’s jewellery store has been in his family for three generations. The wonderful Berber-inspired pieces are chunky, bold, and terribly chic in a Marni-ish way. This time I bought one bright green jade necklace, a ‘fossil’ piece, and a choker made of giant squares of agate. One can spend hours in here looking through all the intricate designs, and they will customize anything.”
Souk Labbadine No. 41; Tel

A charming little clothing boutique near the entrance to the souk. Every piece is in a different print, often in wonderful silks and cottons, and cut in circular or square shapes for wonderful volume and swing. The printed turbans are divine.
134 Dar El Bach

Hammams to Note
“Ksar Char-Bagh is a hotel in the famous Palmeraie area of the city. Set in lush grounds swaying with palm trees, the hotel was built 10 years ago and modeled on the Alhambra. It’s tranquil and calming, and the hammam offers the best body scrub with black soap that I have so far experienced.”
Tel 212.0.661.91.72.33

“La Maison Arabe is a wonderfully dark, candle-lit hammam which offers guests the most incredible rose, jasmine, or orange blossom oils for their massages and treatments, as well as a fabulous scrub-down.”
Derb Assehbi, Marrakech 40000

Standard & Poor’s Grants Morocco the BBB-/A3 Note

By Chaima Lahsini - April 12, 2017 Rabat

Days after Fitch confirmed Morocco’s investment grade for its long-term sovereign debt, it is now the turn of its American colleague Standard & Poor’s to renew the stable outlook for the solvency of the kingdom. Albeit the good news reported by the two firms, Morocco’s per-capita GDP remains one of the lowest in the category of countries rated BBB-/A-3. Before issuing their verdict and delivering their sovereign ratings, the rating agencies run thorough studies on the examined countries, such as the one developed by Standard & Poor’s (S&P), which has recently granted Morocco its BBB-/A-3 note.

Through its published note, the rating agency has thoroughly scrutinized every aspect of the country’s political, economic and social situation. It started with the five-month political deadlock and moved to the nature of the electoral system preventing the handing over of an absolute majority to a single political party, and on to the recent events in the city of Al Hoceima and the constitution of the government majority.

The Impact of a Tense Political Environment
It goes without saying that the El Othmani government has its work cut out for it. The new coalition is expected to focus more on reducing deficits and pursuing reforms, a task that will not be so easy to accomplish in the face of enormous social pressures, including the relatively high youth unemployment rate. For the year 2017, the agency expects the country’s GDP to reach a growth rate of 3.5 percent, driven by the harvests of a good rainy season. Non-farm activity is also expected to continue at the same level as in 2016.

For the upcoming years, the agency forecasts a growth that will have to converge towards an average of 4 percent, although it is still below potential, due to its sensitivity to weather conditions and to the demand of European countries. According to S&P, the main challenge facing Morocco is to ensure “strong and volatile growth” to tackle the high unemployment rate, which according to the latest High Commission of Planning report, had reached 9.4 percent especially among young graduates. “Moroccan GDP per capita remains one of the lowest in the category of countries rated BBB-/A-3, reaching USD 3.500,” notes S&P. At the same time, it revises downwards its short-term budget deficit projections, targeting a 2.5 percent target by 2020, compared to 3.5 percent in 2017. The year 2016 resulted in a deficit of 4.1 percent, against an initial forecast of the government around 3.5 percent.

The S&P not did not, however, fail to laud the pension reform approved by parliament back in July 2016, under the second mandate of the Benkirane government. The agency expects this reform to relieve the pressure on public finances on the long term. As for the projected fiscal consolidation, the agency believes it will help to stabilize medium-term debt ratios. Nevertheless, the overall stock of indebtedness has increased considerably in recent years alongside the increase in deficits. In fact, S&P expects a “level of debt going towards an average of 51 percent of GDP between 2016 and 2019, compared to 38 percent in 2011”.

Industries to The Rescue
The US based agency also presented a balance of payments analysis on its paper. S&P expect the current account deficit to be 3.7 percent of the GDP between 2017 and 2020, compared with an average of 5.8 percent between 2012 and 2016. At the heart of this improvement, S&P is betting on the good behavior of exports of new industrial projects in the automotive, aeronautics and energy sectors.

Over the next three years, the agency predicts a slight recovery in tourism receipts as well as a sharp increase in export volumes from the Renault plant in Tangier. These account for nearly 5 percent of GDP in 2016, exceeding phosphate revenues, which account for 4 percent of GDP. The S&P agency is also foreseeing an improvement in Morocco’s external position over the next three years. “Gross external financing needs will remain covered by foreign exchange reserves and new export earnings from the automotive sector,” stated the agency.

Moreover, the rating agency welcomes the three lines of precaution and liquidity (LPL) opened by Morocco to the International Monetary Funds, amounting to MAD 6.2 billion in 2012, then revised to MAD 5 billion in 2014, and finally to 3.5 MMDH in 2016. S&P emphasized that these LPL’s provided Morocco with anchored reforms, useful assurance in a context of uncertainty, and sent positive signals to international markets.

Aggressive Banks Amid an Accommodating Monetary Policy
According to S&P, the successive and substantial reductions in BAM’s reserve requirement ratio, 4 percent since June 2016 compared with 15 percent in January 2008, have helped to reduce domestic liquidity and ensure adequate financing of the national economy. The current policy rate of 2.25 allows for the proper conduct of monetary policy, which is deemed accommodating by the Agency. Within the same framework, the Agency expects that credit to the economy will continue to grow at a moderate pace in the coming years, while inflation is expected to remain low: “we expect it to average 2 d percent during the 2016-2020, compared to 1.6 percent in 2016.”

The agency also classifies the Moroccan banking sector in category “7” as part of its banking industry risk assessment (BICRA). “While we consider that regulatory standards in Morocco are generally conservative, Moroccan banks are still exposed to cyclical sectors, such as steel mills, tourism, real estate and construction,” said S&P. “We therefore consider that the economic risks to the Moroccan banking sector remain high in a global comparison. We also assess the risk appetite of the system as aggressive, given the rapid expansion of Moroccan banks, including in the High-risk African countries,” adds the rating agency. It concludes that the stable outlook reflects the expectation that the consolidation of Moroccan fiscal deficits will continue to contract over the next few years. This will help to stabilize the debt, while economic growth and employment will remain below potential, due to domestic structural deficiencies.he

The Positive Prospects of Liberating the Dirham
Referring to exchange rate policy and the prospect of a transition to a flexible exchange rate regime, S&P positively perceives these new decisions. “By migrating to a flexible regime, we believe that the Moroccan authorities, in the short term, will maintain or gradually reduce the restrictions on the Balance of Payments capital account to avoid a large-scale exit of capital. We expect the Central Bank to be a strong currency cushion in the coming years in order to maintain market confidence,” the US-based rating agency stated.

For the rating agency, “the current exchange rate regime limits the flexibility of monetary policy.” S&P adds that it understands that the Moroccan authorities and the Central Bank, Bank Al Maghreb, are considering moving gradually from the current basket of currencies to a more flexible exchange rate regime over the next 12 months, with policies including the targeting of inflation.
“We see these developments as positive for our overall monetary valuation for Morocco,” S&P announced. Monetary authorities are encouraged by the increasingly active macroeconomic environment, including the comfortable level of foreign exchange reserves, the improvement of the external situation and the value of the dirham relative to other currencies. The State is also assisted by the insurance provided by the IMF’s LPL.

“While we are moving towards a more flexible exchange rate regime, we believe that the Moroccan authorities will maintain, in the short term and gradually, restrictions on the capital accounts in order to avoid any large-scale capital outflow. Bank Al Maghrib will accumulate a significant currency cushion over the next few years to maintain market confidence during this transition,” S&P concludes.

Meet the ‘last Jew’ of Essaouira.

Brigid Grauman essaouira / April 12, 2017

Many of Essaouira’s Jews emigrated in the late 1940s and 1950s but Joseph Sebag remains. Essaouira’s Portuguese fortications are the stuff of travel posters. The Atlantic rollers thrash against the walls of this historic Moroccan town, visited by surfers and tourists charmed by its laidback atmosphere. Few among them know that Essaouira was once predominantly Jewish, consisting of a wealthy and cosmopolitan community.

Joseph Sebag, the self-proclaimed “last Jew” of Essaouira, will gladly chat about the fishing port’s Jewish past in his bookshop-cum-antique store where he sells Berber jewellery alongside African masks and old French crockery. His family has lived here uninterruptedly for 250 years and his 88-year-old mother can still recall the story of almost every Jewish home. Wearing a silver Berber bracelet and rings on his fingers, Mr Sebag receives visitors in the cavernous shop that was once the office from which his father ran a shipping insurance business. “I am a secular Jew on the outside but orthodox within,” he says. His mother is of Berber Jewish descent and his father was a Sephardic Jew from Spain.

Essaouira Fishing Port
After seven years in the United States and Canada, where he sold computer parts, Sebag missed Essouaria so much that he returned. Morocco’s Jews have had a chequered history, but Sebag has never been deterred. “This is where my friends are, my family and my roots, and I have never regretted coming back. I feel safe in Morocco.” Essaouira’s Jews left mostly in the late 1940s and 1950s to go mainly to Israel, and also to France, the United States and Canada. But Sebag thinks they should have stayed. Morocco was always a welcoming home, he claims, and is certainly the only place where he wants to live.

When during the Second World War the French Vichy government asked King Mohammed V how many Jews lived in Morocco, which was still a French protectorate, he replied, “I have no Jews, only Moroccans.” Essaouira has long been a symbol of tolerance, ever since the 18th-century Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah founded the town then known as Mogador next to a Portuguese fort and settled a handful of Jewish trading families.

The last stop for trans-Saharan cavarans carrying spices, almonds and tiles, Mogador, along with Tangiers, became Morocco’s only port open to European trade and as such thrived for 150 years. Muslims, Jews and Christians worked comfortably side by side. Trading families from England set up home and founded an English school, and for a while English teas and bowler hats became the fashion. England’s famous Sebag-Montefiore dynasty has roots in Mogador.

The richer Jewish families lived in grand houses in the Kasbah, while the poorer Jews from Marrakesh and the countryside lived in the Mellah, the increasingly cramped Jewish quarter. For a while, Jews outnumbered Muslims. In the oldest of the two walled Jewish cemeteries by the ocean, the layered tombs testify to generations of Jewish presence. The houses in the run down Mellah are now occupied by Essaouira’s poorest residents, but the refurbishment of three of the town’s synagogues is a sign of a renewed interest in the town’s Jewish past. Descendants of one-time Jewish residents make nostalgic trips to discover traces of their ancestral roots, while every September pilgrims from around the world visit to pay homage to the legendary Rabbi Chaim Pinto who is buried here.

Authentic Moroccan food means no rice on the table

Shaistha Khan | Published — Friday 14 April 2017

As a popular tourist destination, Morocco is familiar to many Saudis. If you haven’t had an opportunity to visit the North African country, you now have the option of trying the unique blend of Arab and European food that Morocco offers. The Marrakesh Restaurant at Crowne Plaza, Alkhobar, offers authentic Moroccan food, which is heavily influenced by Mediterranean, Arabic and Andalusian cuisines.

The first and only Moroccan restaurant in the eastern province uses Moorish architecture, arches, mosaics and tiles in Arabesque patterns. The restaurant transports you to a different world — you might as well be sitting in a courtyard in Casablanca or Rabat. Executive Chef Bassil Habib, Head Chef Omar Aghchoui and Manager Hicham explained some of the key ingredients used in Moroccan cuisine and also about Moroccan cooking techniques. Some of the most common ingredients in a Moroccan kitchen are olive oil, mint, saffron, semolina, almonds, raisins and fruits such as apricots, prunes and lemons. Dietary staples include wheat, couscous, chicken, meat and seafood. Moroccan chef Aghchoui and his team tell us that Moroccans rarely eat rice, possibly only once a year — a revelation that shocked us.

The first course in a Moroccan meal may consist of salad or soup, and the traditional bread. As our first course, we tried the hearty and wholesome harissa soup — which is a meal in itself — and usually the fast-breaking dish of choice in Ramadan. The soup includes vermicelli, meat, chickpeas, tomato, onion and lentils. Our salad was a combination of couscous, chickpeas, raisins, zucchini, carrots and sweet potato, and was accompanied by a broth-like sauce.

The chicken pastilla is made of a filo dough-type pastry and then stuffed with shredded chicken. The pastry is dusted with sugar and cinnamon and is similar to the sambosak found in other Arab cuisines, said Aghchoui.Tagine (referring to both the food and the ceramic vessel it is made in) is a conical earthenware vessel used to cook meat, fruit, spices and vegetables on a stovetop. The lamb tagine made of lamb, plum and almonds is cooked for over four hours — the result is a rich, sweet and savory dish with fall-off-the-bone meat.The dessert course consists of a platter of Moroccan sweets — fakkas, sellou, ghareba, barewaat and kaab-el-ghazal. Sellou is made by toasting semolina and creating a fine paste of cashews, almonds, fine sugar, cinnamon and rose water. The kaab-el-ghazal literally translates to “feet of the gazelle.” Stuffed with almonds, it is made to look like the dainty feet of a gazelle. To offset the richness of the dessert platter, it is accompanied by the famed Moroccan mint tea.

The tea comes in a traditional teapot and is layered with spearmint leaves, sugar, and crushed mint to ensure that conversation around the table continues long after the meal.
The restaurant is open from noon to 3:30 p.m. for lunch and from 7 to 11 p.m. for dinner. A meal for two costs approximately SR350-400 ($90-100).•

Welcome to the Moroccan History and Civilizations Museum

By Morocco World News - April 14, 2017 By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

Following twelve months of hard work, the Museum of History and Civilizations of Rabat has re-opened its doors to the public on April 12.  The Museum of History and Civilizations has become a space that brings together a set of important historical components of Moroccan heritage, highlighting and introducing them to national and international attendees.

The city of Rabat is considered the home of important cultural buildings, including Mohammed VI Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the History and Civilizations Museum (formerly the Archaeological Museum). The Museum of History and Civilizations provides visitors with the opportunity to discover a unique collection of precious treasures accompanied by material evidence from the various civilizations that have descended on Morocco from prehistoric times, to Islamic civilizations.

The museum consists of two sections. First, a historical section that showcases the history of Morocco through the centuries via the featured elements. Second, a thematic section, which focuses mainly on ancient marble and bronze collections.  The entrance hall of this area features a new interactive digital screen that shows visitors the important geographical zones of Morocco
Just behind the smart screen, there is a large marble statue of Ptolemy of Mauritania, the last Roman client king and ruler of Mauritania for Rome. The same zone is surrounded by a main hall decorated with geometrical mosaic pieces.

The left wing of the museum includes a collection of bronze and ceramic figures, and antiquities from ancient Moroccan civilizations, namely, Phoenician, Mauritanian, and Roman civilizations. These pieces are from different Moroccan archaeological sites, including Sale, Essaouira, and Volubilis (Walili). This zone of the museum includes Islamic articles, which enables visitors to discover Morocco through various ruling dynasties, from Al Adarissa to the Alawites.

The museum displays architectural elements, scientific objects, measuring tools and currencies, including silver and gold coins that existed over the centuries, in addition to a small smart screen located in the corner of the upper section of the museum. This part of the museum features some of the most essential marble statues, originating mainly from Banasah and Walili, as well as a collection of bronze artifacts that present the graphic themes of Morocco’s heritage.

At the left of the same section, there is an area devoted to the old artwork of white marble, as well as Roman sculpture masterpieces found in Morocco. This section also features one of the most important masterpieces of the Moroccan archaeological heritage, the bronze bust of Juba II, which has also been featured at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
The outer garden of the museum consists of stone artifacts with Libyan and Latin inscriptions, as well as paintings and Islamic publications.
Fatima Zahra Chbihi, the History and Civilization museum’s curator, told Morocco World News that “this renovation is the strategy of National Museum Foundation (FNM), which aims to improve the quality of  Moroccan museums in general and make them more attractive.”

Moroccans and Museums
Chbihi added that “there is a certain minority of Moroccan people who still having that passion of visiting museums. However, foreign visitors are unfortunately more interested in Moroccan museums than the original inhabitants.” She went on to add that some people visit Moroccan museums only on Fridays, because of the free entry offered on this day.

3rd year students at the National Institute of Archeology and Heritage,  Zineb Diouri and Hajar Bekkari, shared their opinions with MWN regarding the renovated museum. Zineb Diouri was surprised by the changes done for the museum.  “I had a passion for archeology and its arts before choosing it as my education plan,” She said. On the other hand, Hajar Bakkar told MWN that “cultural buildings were not receiving appropriate attention before, but now the FNM is making tangible changes to save Morocco’s heritage.” “The renovation of Moroccan museums has a very positive significance. It is a symbol of the acknowledgment and valuation of Moroccan heritage, she added.
The museum entry will be free for the next 13 days

Morocco’s Salwa Akhannouch Wins New African Woman Award in Business

By Morocco World News - April 14, 2017 , Rabat

Moroccan businesswoman Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch won the New African woman Award in business, given by pan-African magazine “New African Woman magazine,” at a ceremony that took place in Dakar. Gambian vice-president Fatoumatta Jallow-Tambajan won New Woman of the Year Award. The Awards, now in their second edition, recognise, celebrate and honour African women who have made exceptional impact and change in their countries or communities in the past 12 months.

Nigeria’s Amina J. Mohammed – the new United Nations Deputy Secretary – took home the New African Woman in Politics and Public Office. Winners have been selected by a special panel of judges from 68 shortlisted candidates across 12 categories. The Award for Women in Health, Science and Technology went to Namibia’s Dr. Helena Ndume – a pioneering ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon, who has to date, performed over 35,000 sight-restoring surgeries on Namibians, completely free of charge.

Zimbabwean philathropists and educationist Tsitsi Masiyiwa, received the New African Woman Award in Education for her work with Higherlife Foundation. Over 250,000 children have benefited from the work of Higherlife Foundation.

The much-talked about New African Woman on the Rise (The Next Generation) – a category which received the most nominations – went to the Kenyan girls rights activist and UN Women youth advisor Vivian Onano.

The New African Woman in Civil Society Award was given to Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, who annulled over 300 child marriages in her village in Malawi, a feat that played an important role in forcing the government to ban child marriages in the country all together.

Morocco: When Men Defend Inheritance Equality

By Chaima Lahsini - April 14, 2017 , Rabat

In an unprecedented initiative, 100 well-known public figures, all men, have gathered together in a book titled “Men Defend Inheritance Equality.” The work represents a collective denouncement of the arguments still being used in defense of maintaining inheritance inequality, usually through classical theological arguments. The volume incorporates prose as well as artwork to illustrate its arguments.“Art, artists and writers are the only salvation for equality, even equality of inheritance.” Hakima Lebbar, psychoanalyst and manager of the Fan-Dok art gallery in Rabat, is convinced that gender equality, especially in the sensitive subject of inheritance, is not only a fight that should led

Her collective work titled “Women and Religions, Moroccan Women’s Perspectives,” saw an exclusively feminine participation denouncing patriarchy and discrimination against women in different religions. Lebbar has returned with a new title, “Men Defend Inheritance Equality,” a new book released on Wednesday.

Because of Theologists
The book presents the reflections of several male authors in favor of inheritance equality. Hakima Lebbar explains that “the choice of the female or male exclusivity is there to emphasize that women and men are alike and equal. The first book gave the floor to the women because they were for a long time excluded from ‘theological thinking.’” In this book, it is men defending equality in inheritance because equality between men and women is also their “business.” It is only through a joint effort that a better society can bloom, especially in the fight against different forms of discrimination, notably the economic ones.

In our Muslim societies, the debate over the question of inheritance equality is stagnant because of the interpretations of theologists. They refuse to see that the socio-economic context has changed and that it is time to reflect upon the ancient texts through exegesis and dialogue, to keep up with the 21st century and with the world around us. The struggle for freedom, justice and equality is a long-term struggle. Through the history of mankind, it has been proven time and again that resistance can be overcome with time, patience, dialogue, reflection, writing and art. Artists have a crucial role to play in society, which is why Hakima Lebbar embarked on this itinerant venture across Morocco.

100 men for women
100 men participated in this project, from different fields of expertise: Islamologists, philosophers, sociologists, jurists, economists, essayists, writers, poets, journalists, political actors, musicians, filmmakers, visual artists, calligraphers, caricaturists and other authors. They belong to different generations and are from several regions of Morocco. Among them are Abdelatif Laâbi, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Fouad Laroui, Mohamed Laaroussi, Hicham Houdaifa and Rachid Elbelghiti.

In my text, I tell the story of my dear grandmother,” explains Elbelghiti, journalist and one of the 100 men participating in the project. “She was a hardworking woman who dedicated her life to building and take care of the family’s modest wealth. But one day, and after 50 years of marriage, my grandfather will leave her for a younger woman.” “Heq Cheqa,” the price of labor, is how Elbelghiti chose to title his narrative, relating the misfortune of his grandmother who found herself with absolutely nothing after her divorce. “She believed that justice would be on her side, that the law of Allah will give her what is rightfully hers.” She was unfortunately, sorely mistaken.

Elbelghiti’s text is but one of many poignant stories of women who were unfairly treated by society and the country’s juridical system, where, despite its laws incriminating any sort of gender inequality, is still adopting Islamic laws when it comes to inheritance. In addition to the texts of these authors, written in Arabic and French, the book also includes the visual works of fifteen male artists representing different genres of artistic expression; painting, sculpture, photography, calligraphy, caricature and others.

The book, as a whole, proposes a rich argument in favor of inheritance equality, based on a traditional and religious referential and also based on a repository of cultural and universal human rights. “It was carried out to encourage dialogue and exchanges on inheritance equality and to set the terms of a serene debate by allowing everyone and anyone to appropriate the reflection on this issue,” Lebbar explained. By looking at the works of the artists and reading through the thoughtful texts of writers from different backgrounds, it is difficult not to question this blatant inequality facing Muslim women without asking oneself: are not all human beings born equal after all?

Anonymous donor sponsors nine Moroccan students

Apr 15,2017 BY KIM JUN-HEE []

Thanks to an anonymous donation from a businessman, nine international students who couldn’t afford their tuition and were about to be forced to return home to Morocco will be able to complete their master’s program.

In 2015, Chonbuk National University’s President Lee Nam-ho visited Morocco and signed a sister school agreement with Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh. Both universities agreed to provide one-year scholarships to exchange students. After a tough competition, nine students were selected to come to Korea last September as exchange students. They entered master’s programs at Chungbuk National University in various subjects including engineering, business and English literature.

According to the university, Morocco looks to Korea as a model economically, in health care and in education. But not many Moroccan students study here, because they can’t afford the tuition. Most of the Moroccan exchange students are from modest families. Only two of the nine students use cell phones. The rest rely on free email to communicate locally and with family.

Their scholarships were only for one year and the Moroccan students wanted to complete their two-year programs. They went to their mentor Cho Hwa-rim, the university’s French African studies director, to ask for help. Chonbuk National University couldn’t extend the scholarships without being unfair to other exchange students. Cho got in touch with Chafik Rachadi, Ambassador of Morocco, and they started a joint search for sponsors.

Last month, a businessman, who insisted on remaining anonymous, donated 50 million won ($50,000). “Africa, rich in natural and human resources, is a blue ocean area for Korea,” the businessman said, using the jargon for a place of great business potential. “I expect Moroccan students to grow and become mediators between Korea and Morocco.” “We will also help Korean students study in Morocco,” Rachadi said.

Why we need to decarbonate all human activities

By Dolapo Aina 15 April 2017 

Morocco has a goal to achieve forty two percent of renewable energy target for 2020. And with the current power plants that are operating and some under development cum construction; Morocco is already heading towards the next target for 2030. One of the firms; active in the renewable energy drive in Morocco is ACWA Power. According to Wikipedia, Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (OSPS), also called Noor Power Station is a solar power complex located in the Draa-Tafilalet region in Morocco, 10 km from Ouarzazate town, in Ghessat rural council area. The entire Solar Project is planned to produce 580 MW at peak when finished and is being built in three phases and in four parts. Total project expected to cost $9 billion.

The plant will be able to store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt, allowing for production of electricity into the night. Phase 1 comes with a full-load molten salt storage capacity of three hours. And it was connected to the Moroccan power grid on the 5th of February 2016. It covers 450 hectares (1,112 acres) and is expected to deliver 370 GWh per year. The plant is a parabolic trough type with a molten salt storage for 3 hours of low-light producing capacity. NOOR Phase two and three plants are due to open in 2017 and 2018 and would store energy for up to eight hours. It will cover an area of 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres). Furthermore, NOOR 1 is part of NOOR Solar Complex, which will be the world’s largest CSP complex once completed. NOOR Solar Complex will provide power to more than one million people, while preventing the release of 300,000 tonnes of greenhouse gasses annually.

Africa’s largest solar power complex is situated in the ancient city of Ouarzazate; which is renowned for her role as the preferable city where Roman themed and Biblical themed Hollywood movies are shot. Movies like Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiators, Game of Thrones (a part of the TV Series), Cleopatra, St Paul, The Seventh Scroll, The Mummy, Jesus, Esther, The Garden of Eden, Jeremiah, David, Solomon. And modern movies like Rules of Engagement (Samuel L. Jackson), Bodies of Lies (Leonardo Di Caprio and Russell Crowe) to name a few.

ACWA Power will complete Africa’s largest solar power facility with 1new solar PV project and build 2 more projects, adding 170 MW to the installed energy capacity of Ouarzazate, Morocco. The new developments will be constructed, funded and managed by ACWA Power’s new renewable energy division ACWA Power RenewCo. At the just concluded United Nations’ COP22 Climate Change Summit from November 7-18; in Marrakech, Morocco; the President of ACWA Power, the major stakeholder (which also has MASEN- Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy; collaborating) in the NOOR Solar Power Complex project, Mr Paddy Padmanathan sat with Dolapo Aina, for an exclusive interview at the NOOR Solar Power Complex in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Do read the excerpts.

1. Do let the readers know you
My name is Paddy Padmanathan. I am the President and CEO of a company called ACWA Power, headquartered out of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but now operating in eleven countries. Our entire mission is to reliably deliver electricity and desalinated water at the lowest possible cost, on bulk basis, on long term, off take contracts. We typically serve government owned utility companies or energy intensive industrial enterprises. Our mission is to deliver electricity and desalinated water. So we are not there propagating anything specific; we are technology-neutral and fuel agnostic. We serve our customers and if a customer says use fuel/gas, we use gas. If the customer says use wind-power, we use wind-power. And in today’s world, clearly, there is a clear link between carbon emission and climate change.

And there is a clear need to de-carbonate all human endeavour and recognising that power generation and desalinated water is consumed. Desalinated water production, are very energy intensive and fuel intensive for fuel intensive industries but we need to move towards renewable energy fast. And we are very glad to see that more of our customers are demanding renewable energy.
Today, we are also rapidly growing in the area of renewable energy. Here in the Kingdom of Morocco, we have been present here for five years. Our first investments here are in terms of very large renewable energy projects. The first project, you are visiting is a Concentrated Solar Power complex.

A Concentrated Solar Power uses the heat of the sun rather than the electrons in the sun. Photovoltaic panels use the electrons in the sun while Concentrated Solar Power uses the heat of the sun to boil water; to produce steam which then drives the steam turbine. The big advantage of this technology is also that over the years, scientists have discovered that you can store heat in salt. You can melt the salt, keep it very hot and then put heat into it and take heat out of it and very efficiently, you can do heat transfer. We are able to collect heat during the day, put it into the salt and then take it out at night and run the steam turbine.

Presently, we are in this project in the Kingdom of Morocco, in Ouarzazate, surrounded by Atlas Mountains. We are producing energy day and night using only solar power (the heat of the sun.)
So, this particular complex generates 160 megawatts of solar energy, which is enough to provide electricity for approximately 650,000 homes. It produces electricity during the day into the night.

2. There is a report that the facility is the biggest in Africa. How true?
Absolutely, correct. This facility which is already operating which is called NOOR 1 is 160 megawatts and three hours of storage. It is already the biggest solar plant in Africa. And now, we are building next to it, NOOR 2 and NOOR 3 (two more projects running simultaneously.) When completed at the end of 2017, the whole complex would produce 510 mega watts (during the day and seven hours at night.) Now, this complex would be the largest solar plant in the world and not just in Africa.

3. How much was deployed to build the NOOR1 Complex?
This particular complex has got $2.7billion investment in it. But the case of renewable energy is very straight forward. Of course, it costs a lot of money to build but once you have built it, the cost of operating and maintaining it; are minute. There is no fuel cost and it is very efficient. In whole life (lifetime) cost terms, it is very cost effective. With fossil-based plants, you spend less money in building it but then you have to spend a tremendous amount of money operating it and of course, you have to put fuel in it and as you know, fuel cost fluctuates, but it is a very significant lifetime cost. But here, once you have made the investment, you would keep receiving electricity for life. The good Lord does not charge for the energy, so we are able to use it.

4. What is the return on investment since a lot of funds have been ploughed into this project and since obviously, this is not charity?
Obviously, this is not charity. Pertaining to this particular complex, we are very glad to benefit from a whole plethora of multi-national and bi-lateral donors but in this project, they are not donating any money. All of the money is coming in on commercial terms (full commercial terms.) And there is interest to be paid and capital needs to be repaid over twenty five years time. Our own equity investments, is that we have seventy percent plus ownership of the asset, our Moroccan government partner (MASEN) has twenty-five percent ownership and we also have some small investors. We have all got money in there and we are using it as a commercial venture (all of us are getting financial returns.) It is absolutely not different if it was going to be a coal-fire powered plant, no different if it was going to be a gas-powered plant.

5. By next year 2017, the remaining plants would be completed and would become the biggest in the world?
Yes. By the end of 2017, the whole complex would be ready and would become the biggest in the world.

6. What is the percentage of the Moroccan population you are serving?
When the whole complex comes online; it would be eight percent of the electricity supply of Morocco. We are just one plant (renewable energy is quite big.) Morocco has a very clear ambition and they are taking all the right steps to achieve it. By 2030, they want to have fifty two percent of their electricity coming from renewable energy sources. They are a full convert in accepting that renewable energy is the way forward and they (I believe overtime) would convert all their energy generation and fulfil their commitments in Paris. There is no doubt whatsoever; they are probably one of the front runners in this business.

Also, Morocco has learnt that it is not just about generating green megawatts but also, you can use these investments and opportunities in order to industrialise your country in order to develop the communities in which these plants are being built. By the way, this interview is being conducted in the village of Tassalmant (Tassoumaat), standing in a beautiful setting overlooking Elwadi, where palm trees are being grown with the local community (singing and dancing at the back). The reason why we are here is very simple, this is one of the communities with whom we are working even though our core business is to produce electricity and desalinated water and nothing else, we have to live and work with this community for the next thirty years. So, we need to develop the communities along with us.

But, people would say this is charity. It is not charity and has nothing to do with charity. In fact, it is not that difficult for us when we are investing so much in order to move some of that investment for the betterment of the local community, buy goods and services for the community. So, in this particular case, we have helped this community improve the yield of the palm trees. So, if you interview the indigenes, you would discover that, in a matter of years, the yield has already gone up by seventy percent for the palm trees because we have been able to bring some expertise and show the indigenes, improved cultivation and improved ways of caring for their palm grooves. In other community areas, we are helping to rear chickens; they produce eggs and sell to our construction workers. They are improving local craft which we are then; able to take out and into town and help them sell their craft. So, we are trying to make the community benefit also from the power plant by developing along with it.

And quite a lot of the community people are now working in the construction site with us. Some would remain with us during the operational life as operating staff. These are all the added benefits of this kind of investment. Renewable energy more than other forms of energy tends to get built in remote sites regardless of whether your country is rich or poor; and also farther away from town centres you go; and that is where you find the poor and disadvantaged. Above all, ending up leaving investing in renewable energy is also a fantastic way of developing those communities.

Restriction on Religion in Morocco on the Rise: Study

By Youssef Igrouane -April 13, 2017 Rabat 

Restriction on religion in Morocco has been increasing, according to a new study conducted by the AmericanPew Research Center. The study, which surveyed 198 countries, listed Morocco among 23 countries with ‘very high’ government restrictions on religion in 2015, along with Vietnam, Singapore, Algeria, Iraq, Eritrea, Brunei and Mauritania. The center further noted that there were four countries, including Morocco, Cameroon, Comoros, and Niger – that experienced a large change on the Government Restrictions Index in 2015 showing a movement toward higher restrictions.

The Washington-based center did not explain precisely how restriction on religion in Morocco was increasing. It did, however, say that this rise was due to policies targeting certain religious practices.
The report noted that in July of 2015, the governor of Cameroon’s Far North Region banned the full-face veil after female suicide bombers wearing the religious garment killed at least 13 people in attacks. Restriction on religion in Morocco increased markedly from 2007 to 2015, according to the study, which showed that the baseline for the study was 4.9 in 2007, 5.3 in 2014, and had increased to 7.5 by December 2015.

In January 2017, the Moroccan Minister of Interior decided to prohibit the sale and manufacture of the burqa across the country. The decision, which captured the attention of the international media, stirred a heated controversy among Moroccans themselves, inspiring several preachers to argue publicly over the issue. The ban on the sale of burqa, was widely suspected to have been motivated by security concerns. It prompted scores of Moroccan women who wear the garment to gather outside parliament in Rabat and pour into the squares in Casablanca to denounce the decision.

King Mohammed VI Launches Final Stage of World’s Largest Solar Energy Complex

By Morocco World News - April 1, 2017 , Ouarzazate

King Mohammed VI launched, Saturday in the Commune of Ghessate (Ouarzazate province), Noor Ouarzazate IV power station, the final stage of the world’s largest solar energy complex with a total capacity of 582 MW. This new project, which will be developed on an area of 137 ha using photovoltaic (PV) technology, shows King Mohammed VI’s determination to optimize the exploitation of Morocco’s natural resources, preserve its environment, promote its economic and social development and to ensure the future of upcoming generations.

It reflects the special interest given by the King to energy projects, a real lever for development, and his desire to further promote Morocco’s expertise in a sector at the cutting edge of technology benefiting both Morocco and the African continent as a whole. The latest example of this interest is the Nigerian-Moroccan gas pipeline project, which was announced during the last visit of the Sovereign to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The construction of Noor Ouarzazate IV power station is in line with Morocco’s international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and its major goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the national electricity mix to 52 pc by 2030. Worth over 750 million dirhams, Noor Ouarzazate IV has a capacity of 72 MW. It uses photovoltaic technology which makes it possible to produce electrical energy directly from the solar radiation captured by semi-conductor cells.

Noor Ouarzazate IV power station, scheduled to start operating in the first quarter of 2018, will be developed as part of a partnership involving the National Agency for Solar Energy (Masen), a central player in renewable energies in Morocco, and a consortium of private operators led by the group ACWA POWER. German Development Bank KfW Bankengruppe, contributed 659 million dirhams to the financing of the project.

The second and third power stations of Noor solar complex (Noor II and Noor III) were launched by the Sovereign on February 04, 2016.Their completion rate reached 76 and 74 pc respectively.
With a capacity of 200 MW, Noor II plant is developed on a maximum area of 680 ha, based on solar thermal technology, with cylindrical parabolic trough. Noor III plant is built on an area of 750 ha using a solar power tower (150 MW).

Noor Ouarzazate II, III and IV, combined with Noor Ouarzazate I (160 MW) that started operating in February 2016, make Noor Ouarzazate the largest multi-technology solar production site in the world, with a total investment of MAD 24 billion.

Transcontinental trip exposes beauty of Morocco

By Daniel Kilcullen 04/04/17

I purchased my ticket to Marrakech, Morocco, early in the semester, and I had been counting the weekends until my departure ever since. During the last two-plus months, I’ve had the privilege to visit some of Europe’s most beautiful sites, but northern Africa was an entirely new experience for me. On the morning of my flight, I rushed through my exam and walked with a friend to meet up with our Bla-Bla Car driver. We opted for a rideshare instead of a train because of time constraints, but confusion at Charleroi, Belgium still ended with us missing our flight. It seems these trips are never quite stress-free.

We considered our options and decided to purchase one-way tickets to Casablanca, Morocco’s economic lifeblood and largest city with a population of more than four million people. Casablanca is seated on the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Rabat, the Moroccan capital. Between 1912 and 1955, Morocco was a French colony, and this influence is still apparent. Along with Arabic, French is a widely spoken language across many of Morocco’s more urban areas.

Once we had finally arrived, hours later than originally planned, our AirBnB host recommended a traditional Moroccan restaurant blocks away from his home. The streets were unsettlingly quiet for a Friday night, and the restaurant was empty. The grumbling in my stomach overpowered my apprehensions about eating at a deserted restaurant. I ordered tajine aux pruneaux, a staple in Moroccan cuisine which is cooked in the same ceramic platter in which it’s served, and I was not disappointed.

Few items on the menu were more expensive than 70 dirhams, which converts to $7. Overall, between the $2 cab rides and cheap eats, I found Morocco to be extremely affordable. The next day, we purchased train tickets to Marrakech, a popular tourist destination a few hours south of Casablanca. One area in which Morocco lacks is its infrastructure. The train to Marrakech was more than 90 minutes late, and none of the employees were able to provide any additional information regarding its arrival.

When it finally did arrive, it was standing room only for the entirety of the four-hour trip. I also found that Moroccans have a much different idea of what constitutes personal space. In the compartment next to me sat a family with a few small children. The children would periodically walk outside the compartment and complete strangers would pick them up and cradle them. People were generally very genial and friendly, but this would be a bit strange to most Americans or Europeans.

The hostel in Marrakech was located in the medina, which translates to city or town in Arabic. Many north African cities have medina quarters, which are typically characterized by their narrow streets and religious sites. As opposed to Marrakech’s touristic new town, the medina is home to much more authentic Moroccan culture. Before my return flight Sunday, I went on a guided tour of Ouzoud Falls in the Atlas Mountains a few hours northeast of Marrakech. The cool waters of the falls offered a respite from the blistering heat, and the indescribable vistas were among the highlights of the weekend.

Of course, 48 hours is not nearly enough time to properly experience a culture as rich as Morocco’s. I regret not having more time to enjoy the cuisine, culture and people, but the trip, missed flight and all, was well worth it.

Global Skies: The take-off of flights in Morocco

Julian Lopez Gomez, euronews 05/04/2017

“We are at Casablanca International Airport in Morocco. Every day,between 150 and 200 flights to or from Europe make use of this tarmac. How can cooperation be strengthened between the European continent and other regions of the world to make flights safer and air traffic control more efficient?”

The Sky’s the Limit
Casablanca is the hub of Morocco’s 19 international airports. In 2016 it hosted some 8 million passengers. Many of them were travelling to or from Europe. Last year, Morocco was fourth in world destination per flights to or from European airports, after the United States, Russia and the United Arab Emirates. The country was also the first non-European state to be fully integrated into the working structures of EUROCONTROL, an international organisation for safety in air navigation.

Zouhair Mohammed El Aoufir, CEO, Moroccan Airports Authority: “Air traffic between Europe and Morocco is very important, and our airspace is used for traffic going from Europe to the Canary Islands, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. So here in Morocco we have the role of being a bridge between Europe and the African continent, and we guarantee air space continuity, with the same standards, safety, fluidity and security between Europe and the rest of the world.”

A national flight center in Morocco oversees a daily average of 1000 flights. EUROCONTROL experts are often here to coordinate a common workflow and data exchange with their Moroccan colleagues and to provide better services to airlines and passengers. Joe Sultana, Director Network Manager, EUROCONTROL: “If we have a major disruption in Europe, it is important for us to make sure that we have the information on who is coming (from outside Europe) so that we can coordinate with the regions, the adjacent states to Europe, that basically maybe they have to be delayed, maybe they cannot operate at a certain airport … warn the aircraft operator (airline) that maybe one airport is closed and they might have to go to another airport. All this is needed for the airlines and the air traffic control system.”

And the trend is bound to continue, with experts predicting that in coming decades only 11% of European flights will remain inside the continent. This means that further cooperation with other regions of the world will remain crucial. Henrik Hololei, Director-General of DG Move, European Commission: “By developing this concept and making better use of the congested air space, you would also be making yourselves getting ready for the future. Because if we look 15-20 years ahead, and if we don’t make any significant changes, in 2025, we might have more than 1 million flights a year which could not take place because of the congestion. So that is also something where everybody would benefit from, and the Single European Sky initiative is very much in the middle of that.”
In 2016, the volume of traffic to and from Europe and other regions of the world neared 1.8 million flights.

New York Sephardic Film Festival Honors Andre Azoulay

By Constance Renton - April 5, 2017 , Toronto

Royal Counsellor, Andre Azoulay, was feted during a special tribute at the sold out opening night for the 20th Anniversary Edition of the New York Sephardic Film Festival (NYSJFF). The event took place March 30 in New York. Ambassadors, consul generals and representatives from numerous countries were in attendance to celebrate the film festival’s opening night and to pay tribute to Azoulay. The event was organized by the American Sephardi Federation (ASF) and co-presented by Association Mimouna.

Morocco has long been known across the globe as a beacon of tolerance and anexample of successful Arab-Jewish coexistence. Andre Azoulay has been a champion ambassador for the recognition of this phenomenon. Among the star-studded list of performers for the premier evening was Kuwaiti singer and human rights activist, Ema Shah. She spoke in glowing terms of Morocco as an example for the world. “When I see the Moroccans here- Andre [Azoulay], and everyone from Morocco here- I felt proud… You have something special in your country.”

Laziz Dalil is the vice president of Association Mimouna. In her address, she spoke of her time as a student, along with the association’s executive director, Elmehdi Boudra. She related to the audience that she and Boudra feared young people were moving away from the tolerant discourse of their parents and grandparents, who raised their children with full acceptance of Jewish culture.
“We were losing something very precious about us. Something that belongs to who we are. To our identity. We were losing ourselves. We decided in our small school to do something. So we gathered and created Association Mimouna to promote and preserve the Moroccan Jewish heritage.” Dalil praised Azoulay for his early mentorship and support for the organization.
ASF executive director, Jason Guberman credits the Moroccan constitution and King Mohammed’s concrete support for its text with sending a valuable message to the rest of the world and to “current and future generations.”

“We need much more Morocco in the world,” he said. “We must join Morocco as it seeks to preserve and share its rich Jewish heritage. We should stand with Morocco as it seeks, through the Marrakech Declaration and efforts to train imams, to counteract fanaticism globally.”

Secrets of the souks: Jasper Conran reveals the best shopping spots in Marrakech

Jasper Conran at L'Hotel Marrakech  6 April 2017

Marrakech is an extraordinary city. I’ve been coming here for over 30 years and it was love at first sight. In many ways the city has hardly changed since then. I think Winston Churchill would still recognise the place today (he used to come in the 1930s and 1940s to paint, staying at La Mamounia hotel). It’s a miracle the city’s survived all this time and the medina still has its particular magic. I’ve been wanting to open a hotel here for years.

A morning for me starts by walking through the dark medieval alleys, passing the doors of riads, behind which are exquisite gardens, beautiful tiled courtyards and fountains. The souk is always teeming with life and I can easily spend a few hours there, immersed in the sights, sounds and smells. I love the abundance of craftsmanship which can still be found here. One can find metal objects being made on one stretch, around the corner a sea of wools being dyed and hung out to dry, around the next a row of sellers offering lemonwood spoons and utensils – it’s fascinating.

For books, I like to browse the shelves of Fnaque Berbere (on Derb Ksour), a compact bookshop in the heart of the medina, before continuing to explore the narrow lanes. Valerie Barkowski’s boutique is worth a visit for linens and towels and Mustapha Blaoui’s shop is an Aladdin’s cave. There’s always something to be found there, from lanterns and rugs to the odd pot. If I pass through the main square, Djemaa el-Fna, I will have a freshly squeezed orange juice from my favourite stall, marked number 40. I am always on the lookout for the best olives, and any curious-looking spice mixes and pastes. On the way back to the hotel I will pick up fresh seasonal vegetables and salad from our local grocer on Rue Bab Doukkala.

Now that I have a business here everyone knows me and it means I have a much more intimate relationship with the city. If I walk down the street, I run into some of the chaps in the car park who help us with odd jobs, or others who move stuff for the hotel. We have built up a lot of local connections. There are particular florists, fishmongers, butchers and tradesmen upon whom we rely – it’still very traditional with small shops, artisans and craftsmen doing their thing.

Often I will have lunch in the sunshine on the roof terrace of my hotel under the pergola surrounded by lemon and orange trees. Later in the afternoon I might have an excursion a little further out of the medina. A short drive away is the garden centre, Arborescence, on the road to Casablanca. I stock up on mature orange and olive trees, an array of roses, jasmine and bougainvillea. I might also stop off at Magasin Général in Marrakech’s industrial zone, Gueliz, to look for European antiques from the 1930s.

Out here, beyond the medina’s walls, the city will surely grow and modernise, but inside I think that’s less likely. After all, you can’t construct anything, there are no high-rise buildings and there’s no traffic. Marrakech is not, I hope, going to change in a hurry. I love it just the way it is. I hope the olive-seller will be selling olives for years to come…

Lifting Moroccans Out of Poverty360°

By   Ahmed Idrissi Noury  April 5, 2017 Ahmed Idrissi Noury is a student at Mohammed V University-Agdal in Rabat, where he is majoring in administration and management with a concentration…

To solve the issue of poverty, policymakers in Morocco need to go back to the drawing board. Poverty eradication is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Eliminating relative and extreme poverty is an essential requirement for the sustainable growth of any nation as well as to ensure basic human rights to all. Like many developing countries, Morocco faces the challenge of maintaining a modest standard of living for its citizens. But the lower middle-income country in North Africa has a long way to go.

In 2005, Morocco announced a project called the National Human Development Initiative Support Project (INDH). Over a five-year period, and for a budget of $1 billion, the aim was to improve the living conditions of citizens, reduce poverty in urban and rural areas, assist the most vulnerable groups in society and support families in difficult economic situations.

What was the result?
According to the World Bank, Morocco has made substantial progress in reducing poverty over recent decades. In 2007, 8.9% of its population was considered poor, compared to 16.3% in 1998. But the picture is far from rosy. As of 2014, the poverty rate in Morocco fell to 4.2%, but “nearly 19% of the rural population are still living in poverty or are vulnerable.” And while 3.1% of the population lives on $1.90 a day, as many as 15.5% live on $3.10.

Morocco has 4 million people living below the poverty, as per the Borgen Project. So, the fact that 3 million of these reside in rural areas is telling of the geographical divide. Despite this, there are underlying factors that have played a role in falling poverty rates, including remittances from Moroccans living abroad, the deceleration of population growth, macroeconomic stability and the role of nonprofit organizations. While these efforts have aided the country in its gains, Morocco’s experience has three limitations.

First, illiteracy in rural areas remains very high among both the older and younger generations. As per UNESCO, the national adult literacy rate rose by just 10% between 1994 and 2004—from 42% to 52%—meaning that nearly half the population was classified as illiterate at the turn of the century. As of 2015, adult literacy in Morocco stands at 72%. While this is a vast improvement over just 11 years, much more needs to be done if the country is to lift people out of poverty.

Second, the gap between the rich and the poor has not been reduced. The Gini Index measures a nation’s economic inequality—zero represents absolute equality while the value of 100 shows absolute inequality. Between 1990 and 2006, the Gini Index for Morocco increased from 39.2 to 40.7. While inequality is a global phenomenon that is a seeing a shrinking middle class in places like the United States, this clearly shows the persistence of high inequality in Morocco.

Third, economic growth in Morocco remains fragile and volatile, mostly in the agricultural sector, which accounts for 19% of gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly 40% of jobs. Today, this sector is still dependent on weather conditions, and only 18% of total land is arable. This shows a breakdown between policymakers and pragmatism.

Clear Solutions for Morocco

Morocco’s experience has many limitations, so it is far from a perfect model. Unfortunately, the positive effects of the INDH and other projects have not reached both urban and rural areas. Policymakers need to take time to truly understand how to eradicate poverty in Morocco.

First, the government should work on building the country’s human capital by making the eradication of illiteracy a top priority. This will clearly improve the awareness among poor families to keep their children in school so they can be well educated and, in time, become part of a skilled workforce. In addition, not only can education help lift households out of poverty, but also protect them from falling back into poverty. In doing so, the fight against illiteracy has the potential to serve as a tool of social mobility for Moroccans.

Second, to end poverty in Morocco, corruption must be tackled. By creating an environment of good governance, people will once again start believing in public services such as law enforcement, schools and hospitals. It is essential that national sentiment in such fundamental sectors is restored so people start to value them again. Good governance that combines transparency, credibility and efficiency is essential for any state that seeks to end poverty once and for all.

Finally, promoting the benefits of volunteering will make an important collaboration between young change-makers and national and international organizations possible. Therefore, both sets of stakeholders should work together to solve the issue of poverty by creating innovative solutions, as well as accelerating national efforts that help impoverished people to lift themselves out of poverty. Entrepreneurship could be such a means.

Many of the world’s poorest people continue to suffer from socioeconomic challenges that include unstable food and fuel prices as well as food and water shortages—Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, is a case in point. There is no better time to evaluate the impact of existing strategies and to put the effective policies of Morocco’s approach into realization in order to alleviate poverty.
For Moroccans, it is our hope that the country will one day join the league of developed nations. But, for now, many hurdles lie in wait.
*[This article was written for the 2016 Voices of the World Program. In partnership with the United Nations Foundation, Fair Observer taught more than 400 students in six countries—India, Morocco, Kenya, Austria, Mexico and the United States—about journalism and substantive issues such as water, health and poverty. Click here to read more.]

Alcohol Consumption on the Rise in Morocco

By Amira El Masaiti - April 5, 2017 Rabat

Despite the heavy taxation on alcoholic beverages, consumption is still increasing by leaps and bounds in Morocco. 2017’s first quarter has recorded a seven percent jump in alcohol consumption, compared with the first three months in 2016’s ratio, reported Assabah in its April 5 edition. When we look at a breakdown of this increase, beer occupies first place with a five percent increase, while spirits recorded a two percent growth.

The increase is mainly due to the joint campaign of the National Office of Health and Food Security (ONSSA) and the customs services in Morocco to stop smuggling of alcoholic beverages.
Summer typically accounts for 70 percent of Morocco’s annual liquor consumption. The arrival of Ramadan this year, just prior to the start of the summer season, will likely contribute to an increase in sales for the alcohol industry. The absence of national and official statistics on the consumption of alcohol in Morocco makes it necessary to rely on research conducted by international institutes.
The Office of International Studies and Research on Alcoholic Beverages and Spirits, therefore, specifies that Moroccans consume approximately 120 million liters of alcoholic beverages, 68.3 percent of which is beer.

Morocco Seeks to Attract 11 Million Tourists in 2017

By Chaima Lahsini - April 5, 2017 , Rabat

Morocco seeks to build on the positive performance of the tourism sector in 2016 and attract more tourists in 2017. Moroccan tourism activity recorded very positive results in February, with a 10.6 percent increase in arrivals at border crossings and 18.8 percent in overnight stays in tourist accommodation establishments. According to the Ministry of Tourism, tourist activity seems to be recovering in the beginning of 2017. Very positive results have been registered since November 2016. The majority of both traditional and emerging markets contributed to this upward trend at the end of February 2017, with a positive impact on Morocco’s main tourist destinations.

The traditional markets, namely French, Spanish, German and British marked respective increases of 6 percent, 22 percent, 19 percent and 7 percent. Emerging markets also recorded strong performances, with an increase of 923 percent for the Chinese market, 82 percent for Russia, 62 percent for Japan, 32 percentfor the United States, 20 percent for Canada and 17 percent for the African market. The strategy of market diversification adopted by the Moroccan National Tourist Office (ONMT) is paying off.

This tourist flow is reflected in the number of visitors to classified accommodation establishments (EHTC) since the beginning of this year. As of the end of February, the EHTC showed an increase in overnight stays of 14.8 percent, with an increase of 20.2 percent for non-residents and 4.1 percent for residents.

The occupancy rate increased by 4 points with an additional 12 points for club hotels, 5 points for 4-star hotels and 3 points for 5-star hotels. This recovery was also observed at the level of the kingdom’s main tourist destinations, which recorded double-digit growth in the first two months of the year, according to the ministry. An increase of 17 percent was registered for Marrakech, 19 percent for Agadir, 37 percent for Fez, 25 percent for Tangier and 8 percent for Casablanca.

To keep up this pace, the ONMT does not intend to step up its efforts. The tourist office will soon adopt a new vision based on profitable participation in various international fairs, while investing in digital communication and support for airlines.

To consolidate the Moroccan brand as a true tourist destination, the ONMT has launched its newest campaign. “This place is made for painters … The beautiful abounds”. This quotation from Eugène Delacroix’s travel diary is the slogan of the new campaign, underlined by Moroccan newspaper L’Economiste.

The ONMT is counting on an additional 600,000 tourists this year, which will reach nearly 11 million tourists. In 2016, Morocco attracted 10.33 million tourists, marking a slight increase of 1.5 percent compared to 2015. This growth is due to good performances linked to the diversification of the issuing markets, notably China, Russia, and the United States.
This year, the ONMT expects the arrival of an additional 100,000 Chinese tourists as in the first two months of 2017 their arrivals recorded a leap of 22 percent compared to last year.

Morocco displays diversity at cultural fair


Loubna Chakhnoun, a Moroccan painter, spends a busy evening at Sharjah Heritage Days showing visitors some five paintings of portraits that portray the life, fashion and diversity of her country’s cultural composition. She is in a stand clearly marked: “Moroccan Heritage”. Morocco is a regular exhibitor in the 15-year old event whose latest edition ends on Apr.22. She points at the portraits to explain the geographical diversity and ethnic composition that form the Moroccan identity of the Amazigh “who are indigenous people of Morocco; the Arabs who came from the Arabian Peninsula or the Phoenicians and settled on the coasts and the people of Andalusia who settled in Morocco after their departure from the Iberian Peninsula.”

On display is a saaqi, a man holding a jug and copper cups ready to provide water to thirsty people in the desert. “The pictures that you see here represent Moroccans living in three main areas: North, Central and West,” says Loubna in the company of her brother, Abderrahim and a compatriot, Khadija. “We are very diverse in ethnicity and religious beliefs,” she says. “This is what has rendered Moroccan heritage a crucible in which creative contributions of various cultures gather. This is what is known as the Moroccan heritage.”

Abderrahim says the Moroccan nature is a “living catalogue of all known seasons and climates on the surface of the earth: the desert with its sand, dunes, and high mountains are covered by the snow. “Morocco is coated with green colour throughout the year and the beaches that extend to over 3,500 km from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts.” Abderrahim explains to the visitors that “every part of Morocco is distinguished from the rest by its own heritage, in terms of fashion, food, music and folk dances. “But the atmosphere of tolerance and coexistence that Morocco has known throughout history has facilitated the integration of these heritage patterns to be the culture of this country which Moroccans are proud so much as it fills a large part of their daily lives.”

This diversity is expressed in Loubna’s art. “Traditional clothing is still widely used and popular music is present in all religious and social events,” she explains adding, “ The traditional cuisine is a mixture of authenticity and modernity in its dishes.”

Love in Morocco

Chandana Ghosh

In the infinity of sand dunes, or in the labyrinth of alleyways in its cities, it’s the warmth of Moroccans that makes their country more enticing.

“Were you not scared?” The voice seated across me queried. I could not see the face in the darkness of the night. The sound of silence was interrupted as the voice continued: “… For miles on end we could not see any sign of life, we were worried sick as to what would happen if our vehicle broke down in the middle of the desert.” My fellow traveller and I lay stretched out on the Erg Chebbi sand dunes in the middle of Sahara desert. The sky was the only protective canopy above us, busy with millions of stars. Our conversation was interspersed with attempts to identify the constellations that lit it up.

No, I was not scared. In fact that was the first time the thought occurred to me. Yes, I had been driving for 2,000 miles through the rugged terrain of Morocco, crossing the Atlas at its highest point — the Tizi-n-Tichka, plunging to the bottom of the deep Todra gorge, crossing the massive Erg Chebbi dunes of the world’s largest desert, staying with locals in their homes called kasbah, dining with them on fragrant pilaf and freshly cooked tagines, and befriending the odd Berber and the nomadic Bedouin.

Earlier that day, it seemed that our vehicle was headed to the end of the horizon — where the blue cloudless sky met the long stretch of metalled road. On both sides of the road were expanses of stony desert plains, and at a distance we could see the Erg Chebbi dunes, rising up in the air. The car air-conditioning had long given up in the scorching heat. Suddenly Hassan, the vehicle operator, halted the car. In front of us an apparition that had emerged out of nothingness — bandaged in bright colours, it looked like a mummy had come alive.

I learnt later that Bedouin Hussain was not an unfamiliar apparition. He enjoyed inviting the rare passer-by for a cup of Moroccan tea to his “home” in the Hamada. As he led us towards the desolate desert plains, I could see only a camel lazing by an old-style Persian well, and a small sit-out by the side. While I was still trying to figure his home, Hussain pointed towards a small burrow in the ground. In the light of a match we saw a flight of stairs going underground. The staircase was decorated with artefacts, which looked as if they belonged to the Stone Age. At the bottom of the flight of stairs was a tunnel that led to a spacious area. A candle flickered in the cool breeze that wafted across the room. Looking up I sighted the sky. The carefully-crafted skylight not only filtered in daylight but also acted as an air-conditioning system. There was a 45-km labyrinth of underground rooms and tunnels below the stony plain, to protect the Bedouins from desert storms. I soon learnt Hussain’s family was away visiting another village; instinctively I felt it was time to leave his underground home and head back towards the open sit-out.

True to his promise, Hussain made us the typical Moroccan tea, sweet and invigorating. As we set out again to conquer the desert, Hussain gifted me a piece of his “bandage”. He swathed my head and face with five-foot long coloured silk, adding, it will come in good use in the desert sand.

We journeyed for some miles, till we reached the dune line. Here the road ended and the travellers congregated to make their way into the interiors of the desert on camel back. It is here that I met my fellow traveller. Together we mounted our camels and started the trek across the undulating sandy dunes. As we gained height, we learnt how to sway and steady ourselves in rhythm with the footsteps of the animal. Covered in full-sleeved shirts, flowing headgear and large goggles, we looked like modern-day Bedouins crossing the desert. Our mirth came to a sudden stop, as we sighted a veil of sand being lifted up from the dunes. Soon the winds caught up, twirling and hurling them around as if in a dance sequence. I closed my eyes, mouth and nostrils, before I could feel the impact of a sand blast. I could not even see the camel in front, in the whirlwind of the desert storm. Through all this, the camel trudged steadily on the defined path, led by the mahout. The minutes seemed like hours and just as suddenly the sandstorm stopped and the dunes seemed to regain their peace. By then we had reached the sunset point — sandy dunes surrounded us, punctuated by sparse vegetation. Watching sunset from atop the mounds is an unforgettable experience. The play of light and shade across the expansive dunes is nothing less than theatrical.

A desert drive across the Sahara was in my bucket list alright. I had carefully planned this three-day road trip from Marrakech to Fez and at various points in time sought repeated reassurance about the safety of the journey. But, lying cradled in the infinity of sand dunes, I found myself silently surrendering to the power of nature and the genuineness of the people who exude warmth in spite of their hardships.

The journey is varied in colours and experiences. The weather changes from dry, hot to cool temperate as you wind your way through the Ziz Valley to reach the quaint town of Fez. The scenic drive takes you through many interesting twists and turns — from the fortified Ait Benhaddou to the palatial Kasbah of el Glaoui along the trans-Saharan caravan route; from the colourful handwoven carpets in Telouet to the handmade argan oil near Tahanaout; passing through the valley of roses in Kelaat M’gouna and concluding with the cedar forests of Azrou, near the Swiss-like settlement of Ifrane.

At the end of my journey in Fez, I negotiated a labyrinth of narrow streets, surrounded by the cacophony of traders and passers-by and the occasional donkey, all jostling for space. I was unable to comprehend the magic of the former capital of Morocco that seemed to captivate many. Till the doors of my riad, where I was to stay that night, opened. My jaws dropped as Dominique, the friendly French owner, ushered me in. Intricately designed mosaic and inlay work decorated the large courtyard, which gathered around an indoor water fountain.
As I discovered, wandering through the old Medina in Fez was like being lost in Ali Baba’s ‘Thousand and One Nights’. Every time I stood in front of an ominous looking door and said “Open Sesame”, it would part to reveal the treasures of handwoven silk, fragrant spices, silverware, ceramics, you name it.

I soon realised I had wandered away from Dominique’s home. And also realised that I did not remember the name of the riad and I had a flight to catch in a while. That was the first time during the trip that panic gripped me. As I took small, unsure steps in the alley, a friendly hand nudged me. “I will take you back to Dominique’s, ma’am”— it was a little boy who had been following me around.
As the little angel guided me back to Riad Kettani, I was once again touched and humbled by the warmth of the people of this terrain, and the little things they do to make you feel at home.

Travel log
Getting there
You can start the Morocco desert drive from either Marrakech or Fez; both cities have international airports and are well-connected from most European cities. The drive cuts through the Atlas mountains and includes a camel trek through the Erg Chebbi sand dunes. You can contact a local tour operator to book a seat in the comfortable four-wheeler of your choice. The driver-cum-guides are very well informed and are fluent in English. The trip can be of varying lengths, the four- or five-day trip involves five-six hours’ drive per day; the three-day trip requires you to be on the road for at least nine hours. Road conditions are good.

The drive includes a number of stopovers and allows some excellent opportunities for souvenir shopping. Notable stopovers include the World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou (fortified village atop the desert mountains) and the Rose Valley, which is in full bloom in April -May. You can also witness the village manufacturing of argan oil.

Homestays (kasbah and riads) are prearranged and very popular. They maintain very high standards of cleanliness and the hosts are very hospitable, however the amenities are very basic.

You can feast on a variety of ethnic Moroccan cuisines. Tagines are a very common preparation. Home cooked wholesome meals are part of the tour. Nuts, fruits are part of most Moroccan dishes. Given the predominance of French influence, there is often a western twist to the meals.

This a good add-on to a trip to Spain (Madrid/ Barcelona); most Spanish cities are closely located and well connected to Morocco.
Chandana Ghosh is a Kolkata-based freelance writer

Moroccan Christians organize themselves to defend their rights


For the first time, Christians have been able to bring their requests to the National Council of Human Rights. “We were well received”, says the spokesperson of the National Coordination of Moroccan Christians. Christians in Morocco still live clandestinely but have just presented a series or requests to an official institution. This is what Mustafa Susi, spokesperson of the newly created National Coordination of Moroccan Christians, told news agency Efe.

According to Protestante Digital, the meeting happened in Rabat on April 3. The delegation of the National Council of Human Rights is in that city. “Several Moroccan Christians met with the organisation to give them a folder with a series of requests that have to do with our rights”, Musatafa Susi explained. “We were well received and we spoke with them for 45 minutes. We told them that we want to assert our rights.”

Among the requests are basic rights like freedom of worship and the oficialisation of Christian churches. The group also asked to “celebrate civil marriages and have our cemeteries – we want to bury our deceased people in non-Muslim cemeteries.” “We want to be able to go to church and make our prayers on  Sunday in a recognised church, we do not want to continue to have our meetings hidden in houses”, the representative explained. “We want our children to be named after biblical names – this is no allowed now – and the right for our children to decide if they want or not to take the Islamic religion class at school.”

Sources told Protestante Digital the Christian group assessed the outcome of the meeting as very positive. “They told us to do our part, and they will support us before the Moroccan government.” Meanwhile, the President of the National Council of Human Rights, Dris Yazami, confirmed to Efe that the meeting actually happened: “They asked for a meeting, we received them and they gave us a document.” However, Yazamani refused to comment on the possibility of a change of attitude towards Christians in a society, in which the practice of this faith has been a taboo for a long time.

The Moroccan law only considers Islam and Judaism as religious options for its citizens. Jews are less than 2,000 people in the country. Never in the history of Morocco have conversions to Christianity been tolerated. Several who have left Islam and embraced Christianity have been judged and jailed.

Yazami said the requests by Christians “will be evaluated”, and added that the fact the meeting happened shows that “the ground for liberties in Morocco is expanding.”
According to the Christian spokesperson, there was a “long debate” about the requests and the Human Rights council was “receptive” to their demands, and encouraged them to “open new channels of communication” in Morocco. This is, according of Mustafa Susi, one of the next steps the organisation will take. They will start contacts with Human Rights organisations from Morocco.

Rabita Mohammedia and UNICEF to Launch Project on Tolerance Values

By Morocco World News - April 7, 2017 , By Safaa Kasraoui Rabat

Mohammadia League of Scholars and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), launched a plan action to instill the values of tolerance and moderation in young people. The launch took place on April 5. In this joint effort, the Mohammedia League of Scholars and UNICEF will be committed to promoting youth leadership and improving their digital engagement with the use of video games and storytelling. Secretary-general of Mohammadia League of Scholars, Ahmad Abadi, has confirmed that this initiative aims to keep pace with adolescents and young people, adding that it will help in the development of new competencies and talents.

He went on to add that the upcoming project includes also the organization of several workshops in favor of young people with the aim of providing them with opportunities of independency and development. He added that this initiative aims also to minimize the risks of isolation and radicalization and protect them from any obstacles that might threaten their future.

For her part, UNICEF representative in Morocco, Regina De Dominicis, has praised the efforts of the Mohammedia League of Scholars, in line with the consolidation of peace messages among young people. De Dominicishas added that UNICEF works with this institution to establish positive models and convey, through comic books and electronic games, the values of respect, tolerance and peace.
The organization also aims to ensure real participation and mobilization for young people, because they must set positive examples, said De Dominicis. She highlighted that the majority of the work to be carried out within the framework of this action plan is based on the ideas of these young people, who are doing their best to achieve a positive change.

According to the two parties, programmed interventions will be implemented at several levels with the aim of developing positive and inclusive models of civic participation of young people.

Sofitel Tour Blanche Sings Praises of Women’s Literature

By Amira El Masaiti - April 8, 2017 , Rabat

Women’s literature has once again attracted a large audience at the Sofitel Tour Blanche Literature Awardsin Casablanca. The festivities were dedicated to two female authors for the 5th consecutive year.  Worldwide cultural ambassador, Sofitel, in partnership with Air France, hosted the award ceremony on Tuesday, April 4. The evening was presented by Catherine Enjolet, author and member of the event’s jury, and Jérôme Lobier, Director General of Sofitel Tour Blanche.

This year nine literary works were selected for distinction.Eventually the jury had to decide between two. For the first time in the event’s history, there was a tie for first place.
Bahaa Trabesli was recognized for her 4th literary work entitled “Concierge’s Chair.” It’s the chilling story of a serial killer who believes that he is God’s messenger, charged with cleansing the earth of its sinners.

“Concierge’s Chair” shared first place honours withthe novel “Mourirest un Enchantement,” by Yasmine Chami. It tells thestory of “Sara, a Moroccan woman of forty years weakened by a disturbing medical diagnosis, settling down on a sofa, perhaps choosing to take the time to live.” The “Coup de Coeur” prize was awarded to Anissa M. Bouziane for her book “Le Chant de la Dune.”Translated from English, it tells the story of the journey brought about by a dramatic confrontation with death, the day the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Among the selected works were “Un Toubibdans la Ville” by SouadJamai, “Coups de Soleil” by Valérie Morales-Attias, “La Sultane du Caire,” by Dima Droubi, “Chairs d’Argile,” by SalimaLouafa, “Amou, Caftan and Pumps,”by LatifaTayah and”The Wedding-Chronicle of an Ordinary Family,” by Yasmina Khalil. In conjunction with the Sofitel Tour Blanche Literary Prize, an art exhibition of the works of Belgian-Moroccan artist, Hanan Bouanani, entitled “The Fantastic Journey,” was presented the BCK Art Gallery.

And as the tradition goes, the event held a tribute ceremony honouring a figure from the associative world. This year, Samira Idrissi, president of the “Soroptimist” association, was chosen by Sofitel Tour Blanche be mentored and supported by Sofitel throughout the year.“Soroptimist”is a global association working to support women in various fields including education, equality and development.

6 Great Places to Eat in Marrakesh, Morocco

Destination & Tourism Worldwide Scott April 10, 2017

Marrakesh is famous for being a sensory-stimulating place, with its aromatic spice markets and pungent tanneries providing a nudge to the nose and the clamor of motorbikes and day-to-day life buzzing the ear.  Marrakesh also does a number on the taste buds, too. Yes, Marrakesh is overflowing with street stalls, restaurants, and cafes that tantalize with the flavors of Morocco, and the following are six of the best I discovered on a recent trip.

Le Jardin
The clue is in the name here, as this relaxing restaurant in the middle of the maze-like Medina (walled old town) is a true botanical oasis. The building Le Jardin resides in dates from the 16th century, and it features a grand courtyard, which has been meticulously filled with lush greenery. Each night, you will find guests feasting on a mix of traditional Moroccan and European flavors while surrounded by leafy palms, twinkling lights, and even a quirky and fully-functioning antique bird cage. Make sure you order: the pigeon-stuffed and cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted crispy pastilla for starter. 

Cafe Clock
Offering much more than just a great meal, Cafe Clock is the place to go in Marrakesh for a side of culture with your dinner. This colorful and art-filled cafe is home to a thriving cultural scene, created in an effort to bring people from around the world together. The program is highlighted by their famous Thursday night storytelling sessions, which aim to recreate the ancient yarn-spinning tradition of the nearby Jema el-Fna square. Make sure you order: the camel burger, it’s delicious, and you know what they say about ‘when in Rome’, right?

The Street Stalls of Rue de La Kasbah
Around the corner from Cafe Clock on the main drag of the Kasbah neighborhood, you will find street food central. Rue de La Kasbah is filled with cheap and cheerful joints serving up simple yet delicious snacks at very budget-friendly prices. It’s a great opportunity to eat like locals and save a few Moroccan Dirham in the process. Make sure you order: the chicken brochette, a sandwich stuffed with flame-grilled kebab-style chicken.
READ MORE Open the Door to Ryad Dyor in Marrakesh  

This chic rooftop cafe is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Marrakesh, and for very good reason. Nomad is putting new-school twists on traditional Moroccan food, with everything from tagine to calamari getting a fun modern makeover. The gorgeously presented food here is complemented by the fact that Nomad overlooks the vibrant and spirited spice market. Simply put: having a meal here feels like stepping into an episode of a show hosted by Anthony Bourdain.  Make sure you order: the lamb tagine, it’s tender, tasty, and comes swimming in a mouthwatering sauce.

Rue Ibn Rochd Fried Sardine Stall
On the side of bustling Rue Ibn Rochd street (just around the corner from the Jema el-Fna square and Koutoubia Mosque), you will find a humble street stall selling fried sardines and fresh-made fries. I stumbled upon it by accident, and it ended up being my favorite meal in Marrakesh. The vendor fries up the lightly-breaded sardines and slices the potatoes right before your eyes, resulting in street food heaven. Make sure you order: the sardines and fries, their only menu option. 

Fine De Marrakech
You can’t have a meal on vacation without dessert, right? Well, this creamery and patisserie just outside the Medina is a Mecca for all things sweet and sticky. You’ll find a plethora of nutty and honey-soaked sweets here, all served by a gregarious gentleman who personifies Moroccan hospitality. Make sure you order:  everything. Literally everything.

Love at First Bite: Morocco Is a Foodie’s Delight

Suktara Ghosh April 8, 2017,

I firmly believe that one of the best ways to get to know a people and a country is through their cuisine. It is the alleyways of bites and sips - the delicate flavour of a spice, the turn of the meat or the nuance of a sauce - that might lead you to their soul. And it was no different in Morocco. Moroccan cuisine reflects the deeply rich and layered culture of a people who make art out of most things they touch - even food. Subtle, comforting and exquisite, the fare is a foodie’s delight with its spectacular variety of bread, meaty treats, bounty of fresh olives, oranges and dry fruits, and pastries. In short, Morocco wins your heart at first bite. So if you are visiting the north-west African country any time soon, make sure you eat your way through these heavenly delights. Bon appetit!

Soul Food Called Tagine
When I bit into my first tagine - beef and plum garnished with roasted sesame - on a cold night in Marrakesh, I felt it travel right to my soul. Mildly spicy with the waft of star anise and the sweet-and-sour plum weaving into the melt-in-the-mouth succulent meat, this is stuff powerful food memories are made of.
Food for Moroccans, as I discovered, is leisurely business. And the tagine - a Berber meat or vegetable stew almost symbolic of the cuisine - is cooked for hours over charcoal fire in a conical earthenware pot called tagine. That and the mix of 35 spices that go into it makes it an all-weather comfort food. Yum!

Bite into a Pastilla
Now this one is a true delicacy. Originally made of pigeon meat - it’s a bit of a rarity now - pastilla is a meat pie that’s sweet and savoury at the same time. The outer casing is made of ultra-thin layered dough (similar to phyllo) that envelops the filling of shredded slow-cooked chicken or fish and flaked almonds. It’s served with a sprinkling of cinnamon powder and sugar powder and believe you me, it’s nothing like you have ever tasted. Served as a starter on special occasions, it’s perfect for small hunger pangs. Or plain greedy spells.

Breaking Bread
Now if you love your rice, you could be in a bit of a trouble in Morocco. It’s a bread country and unless you are a fancy-bakery-regular, I bet you have not seen such a wide variety of breads in India. From the flat, round khobz to the flaky laccha paratha-like msemen to the sweetish pan-fried semolina flour flatbread harcha - there’s something for each day of the week. And they are all literally oven fresh. Most families get their own bread baked every day and you will never be served the same kind in two consecutive meals. In fact, breads come complimentary by the basket no matter what you order. So it’s wiser not to order any separately.

Kebabs Calling
There’s something about Moroccan beef kebabs. Buttery soft and minimally spiced unlike their Indian cousins, the sheesh kebabs often come encased in their metal mini-swords. I tried eating it like the locals do - by simply putting them in the pocket of a huge bread with a garnish of pickled olives. My reaction? A huge smile and a greater urgency to wolf it all down.

Pop the Pastries
Much to my delight, I found that Moroccans like their sweet thingummies much like their Indian brethren. Moroccan pastries are a cross between our sweets and traditional pastries, depending on what you pick to nibble on. Quite apart from looking like works of art, they come stuffed with almond paste or laced with honey and sesame or even chocolate. And no one can eat just one.
Nougats are quite popular as well and it’s best you try some from a busy shop in the souks than from the large touristy displays around town centres or the Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh.
So have you booked your ticket to Morocco yet?

Sheikh Zayed Book Award Names Abdallah Laroui “Cultural Personality of the Year”

April 8, 2017

 The Moroccan historian and scholar, Abdallah Laroui, has been named “Cultural Personality of the Year” by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and will be celebrated during the award’s eleventh session 2016-2017. The title honors prominent figures for their unique contributions to the advancement of Arabic culture, and for works that portray tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence. Announcing the decision of the board of trustees and scientific committee, the Award’s Secretary General Ali Bin Tamim, said, “The choice of the prominent historian and theoretician Abdallah Laroui as Cultural Personality of the Year has been made to reflect his well-founded thought movement and cultural momentum spanning the entire Arab World.”

“Professor Laroui’s valuable contribution to academic institutes and scientific bodies has profoundly influenced Arab political thinking and inspired numerous cultural and literary practices,” he said.
Professor Laroui enjoys a unique mix of in-depth knowledge of Arabic culture and Western values, with wide interests across intellectual, literary and artistic scopes, especially in the fields of philosophy, history, narrative arts, and cinema, said the Award in a press release.

The press release, which highlights Laroui’s professional career, thought, culture, works and contributions to Arab culture, points out that Abdallah Laroui’s book L’idélogie arabe contemporaine marked a new stage in the reading of the history of contemporary Arab culture and enriched Arab thought. L’idélogie arabe contemporaine (The Contemporary Arabic Ideology) was published in 1967 in French with a preface by Maxime Rodinson, a renowned French historian, sociologist and orientalist.

In 1970, the Arabic translation of the book established Abdallah Laroui’s reputation as a key figure in the study of Arabic culture, attracting the attention of scholars and academics with interests in Arabic culture and Arab World affairs. The works of the Moroccan thinker, who upholds intellectual modernity in political and cultural practice, are today a treasure trove of Arab culture since they open wide prospects for research, studies and creativity, the statement added.

The Award will be presented to the Moroccan thinker at the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s annual ceremony to be held on April 30, 2017 during the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.
Laroui was born on November 7, 1933 in the city of Azemmour in Morocco. After preliminary and secondary studies in Rabat, he moved to Paris for university studies in political sciences and graduated in 1958. He obtained a certificate in Islamic studies in 1963 and a PhD in 1967 at the Sorbonne University in Paris. His doctoral thesis was on “the social and cultural basis of the Moroccan nationality: 1830-1912”.

Laroui accepted the invitation of the Austrian historian and Arabist, Gustave Edmund von Grunebaum, to teach at the University of California. He returned to Morocco where he worked as Professor in the Rabat University (School of Arts & Humanities) until his retirement in the year 2000. Acknowledged as one of Morocco’s leading intellectuals, Laroui has been an active member of the Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Moroccan Society for Human Rights. The Sheikh Zayed Book Award commemorates the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi. It grants annual awards worth $1.9 million (AED 7 million).

World Health Day blog: the psychosocial impact of cutaneous leishmaniasis scars

Issam Bennis 7 Apr 2017

World Health Day is held every year on April 7th. To mark the occasion we invited Issam Bennis, first author of a new study published in Infectious Diseases of Poverty, to tell us about his research which explores the psychosocial impact of cutaneous leishmaniasis scars in adolescent students living in an endemic area in Morocco. Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a skin condition caused by a parasite transmitted to humans by sandfly bites. In Morocco three types of this parasite are present: Leishmania tropica, major and infantum. Leishmania major is a parasite that circulates in a reservoir of wild Saharan rodents and is only accidentally transmitted to humans.

CL is very common in Errachida Province in the South-east of Morocco. As there is no regulated waste management in these rural areas, rodents are attracted to human settlements. The lack of individual protective measures against flies makes this environment conducive to the spread of disease.

In general, CL is given low priority by policy makers due to the perception that it is just a self-healing skin disease. A large Zoonotic CL epidemic took place between 2009 and 2011 with more than 10,000 cases. This was combatted using poisoned wheat bait. Unfortunately, today there are no more funds available to sustain the fight against rodents and to manage the environmental factors, so as a consequence there may be a new increase in the rodent population and with it a new outbreak. However, after healing, the CL ulcers leave indelible unaesthetic scars that cause a lot of psychosocial distress in affected people, especially young women. This neglected tropical disease mainly affects the voiceless poor population living in remote exposed areas in Morocco.

Understanding the psychosocial dimension

I got involved in the fight against CL when I was in Errachidia Province in Morocco, and had to coordinate the response to the epidemic. Later, with the help of my promoters in the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, I decided to document the burden of CL in my country in much more detail, especially the psychosocial and the biomedical dimension of this disease. I started qualitative research on the social representation of scars through focus groups discussions and interviews with the general population and former CL patients living in CL endemic areas (Errachidia and Tinghir provinces).

In this paper published in Infectious Diseases of Poverty, we explored this psychosocial dimension in a study carried out in boarding schools of Errachidia province, Students were asked to answer several questions by writing, ending with one open question about the probable psychological state of the person (woman or man) affected by CL scars. Twenty percent of all the students had been personally affected by this disease and had scars. There was a lot of concern about CL even if it was widely understood that CL is not a life-threatening disease.

Twenty percent of all the students had been personally affected by this disease and had scars. For most of them, the indelible CL scars lead to self-stigma and social stigma, specifically for girls who are worried about losing opportunities for a good marriage due to CL scars that would affect their physical appearance and attractiveness. Some respondents considered the scars as a curse.
To our knowledge, this is the first study documenting the psychosocial effects of localized CL scars in an adolescent age group. We believe that our findings show how important it is to pay attention to the psychosocial aspect of this disease among adolescents. For this age group the indelible CL scars on the visible parts of the body, especially on the face, lead to substantial fear and worries.
Preventing the avoidable burden of zoonotic CL and mitigating its dermatological and psychosocial consequences should be a priority for health authorities in this region. We hope the readers of our article will no longer consider the localized Cutaneous Leishmaniasis just as a “minor” self-healing dermatological problem but rather as a social disease especially affecting the poorest young women in Morocco.

Nabil Ayouch, Producer of 2M’s Controversial Documentary Denies Manipulation

By Amira El Masaiti - April 7, 2017 Rabat

Following the controversy created by the 2M documentary “H&H,” one of the participants publicly announced that the show was fabricated and that he was merely a paid actor. Nabil Ayouch, producer of the show, has denied the allegation in a communiqué published by Ali n’ Production. One of the subjects of the documentary went public with his allegation that “H&H” paid him to act in the documentary. Producer, Nabil Ayouch, maintained in a communiqué that the documentary was shot professionally and authentically under “regular conditions.” He announced that the participant’s denial of the show’s veracity came in response to public threats issued, after the broadcasting of the documentary on 2M.

Ayouch said that the participant and his father have both apologized to Alyane Production, which accepted the apology, noting that the participant had made a public a video apology. The producer concluded his communiqué by pointing out that, over the years of television and film production, professionalism and adherence to the rules of work have not been disregarded, nor has non-adherence to professional guidelines been condoned. He went on to add  that the main objective of this documentary series, produced for Ali n’ Production, was to launch “a serious dialogue” within Moroccan society, incorporating all its components, on various controversial issues “in a quiet atmosphere, far from any polemics or provocation.”

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